Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday warned of stern action against anyone trying to foment trouble, a day after four people were killed in police firing on hundreds of Muslims protesting an alleged blasphemous Facebook post by a Hindu man.
On Sunday morning, hundreds of Muslims gathered in southwestern Bhola district, 116 kilometers from Dhaka, for a protest rally under the banner of ‘Muslim Tawhidi Janata’, demanding action against the Hindu man for his alleged social media posts.
As authorities stepped security across Bangladesh, Prime Minister Hasina warned of stern actions against those inciting violence.
She said her government had launched an investigation to identify the culprits.
According to the initial investigation, Hasina said, Hindu youth Biplop Chandra Baidya’s Facebook account was hacked by a Muslim man.
She said Baidya was being blackmailed to pay 20,000 Bangladeshi Taka (USD 235) or blasphemous content would be posted from his Facebook account.
The police have taken Baidya into protective custody, after he lodged a complaint with them, alleging that his Facebook account had been hacked.
“Punitive measures must be taken against anyone who wanted to disrespect Prophet Muhammad, but at the same time if anyone tries to frame another person, action will be taken against them as well,” the prime minister said.
Hasina said, “How can a Muslim write something bad about the Prophet and use it to frame someone else?”
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up across Bangladesh following Sunday’s incident.
Bhola’s district police chief Sarkar Mohammad Kaisar said the protest rally took a violent turn and the police had to open fire in “self-defence”, killing four of the protesters.
“Police in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country are kept on alert after the violence in Bhola,” a police headquarters spokesman told PTI on Monday.
He said extra contingents of armed police were deployed in the capital, where Islamic groups staged street protests demanding action against the defamatory post and police action which wounded many in southwestern Bhola’s Borhanuddin sub-district.
The Border Guard Bangladesh troops have been stationed in Bhola to aid the police.
Bhola police said a ban had been enforced on Monday on rallies for an infinite period. More than 5,000 unidentified people have been booked for their role in Sunday’s protests.
This is the second such instance of violence in Bangladesh after the 2016 attack on Hindu temples in eastern Brahmanbaria town by Islamic groups over a Facebook post.
Several Buddhist monasteries were torched in the country in 2012 by Muslim extremists following a Buddhist youth’s alleged defamatory photo post of the Quran.